After earning a degree in apparel design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Jiyoung An landed a job as a designer for a high-end swimwear company, designing for brands like Kate Spade, Vince Camuto, and Proenza Schouler. But the long work hours became unmanageable and Jiyoung felt that the industry as a whole was “materialistic and superficial.”
She wanted to find a role where she could make more of a positive impact. After leaving the fashion industry, she decided to try a number of different career paths. Her goal was to overcome her intense shyness because she felt that it was holding her back and limiting her career potential.
She took on a door-to-door sales job for an advertising agency and became a manager at a convenience store. The nature of the work forced her out of her comfort zone, but she knew she hadn’t found the right path yet.
Then, a friend who had recently enrolled in Springboard’s UI/UX Design Career Track encouraged Jiyoung to consider UX design as a career path, and the rest is history. Now, she’s a product designer at Nav Technologies, a fintech company that helps connect small businesses with lenders using data decisioning technology.
I was a swimwear designer for a high fashion brand. Each piece sold for $300-$400. I was super burnt out. The company was a startup and I was working 80-130 hours a week, not including my three-hour commute. That’s what started the journey that led me to where I am today.
I felt my designs weren't making much of an impact, and the industry was very materialistic and superficial. At the end of the day, fashion is clothing. Yes, clothing can help people feel good about themselves, but it was not the positive impact I was hoping to make.
A friend of mine told me she had just enrolled in Springboard’s UI/UX Design Career Track. I’m an artist at heart, a critical thinker, and I like problem-solving, so UX design was right up my alley. After completing the bootcamp, I was prepared to find a non-UX job for a year or two just to pay the bills, but I ended up landing a full-time design role.
I’m still very new. I work directly with a team of UX designers and a UX strategist.I am currently working on the company’s personal checking account platform. Over time, I’ll be involved in the release of new products and features, which is really exciting. The company’s mission is to reduce the number of small businesses that shut down on an annual basis. A big part of that is helping them obtain funding.
Right now, the biggest issue is delivering the product. A lot of users see this product as just a resource to help them find funding, and then that’s it. But we want to become an all-in-one financial health resource for small businesses, where they come to us for all their financial needs.
When you’re solving a problem as a UX designer, it’s not just about the solution but the method you use. How do you define the problem? How do you choose what tools to use? How did you create the user personas? Why did you choose this particular user journey? The main thing is to use your portfolio to communicate how your brain works and what makes you unique compared to thousands of other junior designers.
At first, I tried to follow the minimalist design trend, but it didn’t come naturally to me. The more you experiment with different styles, eventually you’ll find one that comes very easily to you.
Take a look at other people’s work and dissect it. If you see something and you think, “Wow, I love the colors and the layout,” ask yourself deeper questions like: Why do I like this? Why does this resonate with me? Over time, you’ll find commonalities.
The main reason I chose Springboard is the 1:1 mentorship. A lot of other bootcamps did not offer mentorship. I know UX design is complex and technical, so I wanted to be able to ask questions in real-time rather than just watching videos or tutorials.
My mentor was Vanessa Joho [senior interaction designer at Google] and she is amazing. She’s the reason I now understand the purpose behind every UX design tool and deliverable. For example, when I was creating user personas for the first time, she explained why personas are used in the industry. She also helped me understand how a real designer in the industry would tackle an assignment.
I worked with a startup called Happy Howl.The company’s mission is to provide healthy dog food alternatives by cutting out the fluff and using whole foods, like vegetables. Even though they had a lot of word-of-mouth referrals, their website conversion rate was low.
We were tasked with redesigning the website. By reviewing their web analytics and running a competitor analysis, we discovered that the product pages had an excessive bounce rate. We also performed a usability test on the website with five participants.
The Industry Design Project. To be frank, the project wasn’t long enough to give me real insight into how the industry works, but the fact I had an internship under my belt helped a lot in my job search.
If you can afford a bootcamp, it’s the easiest starting point. I don’t know how people become self-taught UX designers. There are so many different tools, processes, and design thinking methods. A bootcamp will help you focus your learning.
UX design is not an easy job. It’s fulfilling and high-paying, but you have to love the craft to push through the challenges. You’ll have deadlines and be tasked with designing things in a time crunch. Before you commit to a career change, ask yourself what is the motivation behind it? If it’s the high pay, that might not be a good enough reason.